There are times a writer has to search, dig, and tunnel for words. And don't kid yourself: sometimes using TNT comes to mind as well. Some people call it "writer's block." Since I have heard that phrase applied to everything from "I don't know what to write about" to "I don't know how to tell this story" by way of "I don't really know what I'm doing here," I prefer to use the much more scientific term of stuck.
After I finish a piece of fiction, I always land squarely in the land of stuck. I guess that means I need to re-charge, but it also puts me in awe of writers like Stephen King (well, I'm usually in awe of him anyway) or John Grisham, who start a new project immediately after finishing the last. My brain can't even wrap itself around that idea. Whenever I come close to finishing something and I think, hey, this would probably be a good time to begin blocking out the next book, my brain responds consistently with the same question: "You want me to what?" And there it is.
Since I released BPC 3, Drawing Vengeance, I have also released two novellas. One was Missing Persons, the sequel to Saving Jake. The other was A Scattering of Bones, a Kindle World story for Terri Reid's Mary O' Reilly Kindle World. I finished that story early in June. Today is the last single-digit day in August, and my brain is still asking me the same question. You want me to what?
I write about my muse from time to time, usually in complaint mode and I suppose I ought to stop that. Maybe she'd come back to me sooner if I didn't complain about her so much. On the other hand, when she's here, she is frequently giving -no, make that throwing- ideas at me that have nothing to do with the next book. They are ideas that will find their way into books at least one more down the road, sometimes farther. In other words, not super-helpful to me at this particular time. Yet, that has never stopped her. So I sit here, trying to find the entry point to BPC 4, and she is playing with ideas for BPC 5. It is something that is both comforting and annoying. That is, when she's here at all. She hasn't been around for some time and I am tired of trying to find her.
On the other hand, I have not been faithful to the one thing that I know a lot of my hero writers do when they are writing a book. They read. Having just renewed my library card, I know that I should take a drive and pick out my usual six novels and get started. I have heard of writers who don't read while they are actively writing, fearing the influence of other's styles. But I have found that I tend to, well, dry up if I don't have input from any number of different writers. As Mr. King once said, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." That may sound weird, but I consider words to be an actual flowing substance, and if I'm not submersed in them, then my own tend to wither away and disappear.
So my next step in taking another stab at book 4 will be to ignore it entirely, and spend some serious time reading instead. Reading someone else's work, especially when it's magical, makes me want to touch that same magic again. And then my muse returns as if by invitation, and work begins . And hopefully, when she does come back this time, the work will be done very quickly.
That way I can find myself once more smack dab in the land of stuck.